June 2013 

A note on liver cancer in Canada

Although rates of many cancers are falling or stable, rates of liver cancer are rising in Canada. Researchers expect that in 2013 approximately 2,000 Canadians will develop liver cancer. The main risk factors for liver cancer in Canada are infection with the following germs:

  • hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • hepatitis C virus (HCV)

According to a recent report from the Canadian Cancer Society, people with liver cancer “frequently” seek care and treatment late in the course of their disease—when tumours are large and have spread. By that time, they may also have complex and extensive symptoms. In such cases, curing liver cancer is difficult.

People who have HBV or HCV should get regular medical and laboratory monitoring, including assessment of liver health and ultrasound scans of this organ. Such screening can help doctors detect a tumour when it is still small and before it has spread to other parts of the liver or to other organs.

In Canada, the overall survival rate for people five years after their diagnosis of liver cancer is about 20%. However, rates of survival differ by age group. For instance, people aged 15 to 49 years tend to have a better chance of surviving liver cancer, with a rate of 38% five years after diagnosis. Women tend to have better rates of survival than men. Among women between the ages of 15 and 45 years, the rate of survival five years after diagnosis of liver cancer is 46%. After the age of 60 years, survival rates for men and women are similar and fall as older age is associated with generally weaker immunity.

To find out much more about liver cancer statistics in Canada, please see this report:

Canadian Cancer Society’s Steering Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2013.

—Sean R. Hosein